Update: Bissell posted the fourth fastest time at the team time trial, 50 seconds from the winner Garmin-Barracuda. They were the highest placed Continental team.
Stage 2 at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah is going to force the Continental teams to dust off a skilled rarely used, if ever, the team time trial. The Bissell Pro Cycing team, with five strong individual time trialists in their eight-man squad, is excited for the event and hoping to show off their TTT skills.
“They’re killer. I think it’s one of the most beautiful events in cycling, I think we should do a lot more of them. I’m really excited to have one here.” Chris Baldwin told podiuminsight.
The squad will be counting on Jeremy Vennell, Carter Jones, Julian Kyer, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Baldwin as their strong men in the stage. Former New Zealand Time trial champion Vennell has racked up a couple of top 10 finishes at the Amgen Tour of California time trial, Jones has two top 5 finishes in the USA Under23 national time trial championships, Kyer just won the USA elite national time trial championships, Baldwin is a former USA National Time Trial Champion and Jacques-Maynes who also finished in the top 10 at the Tour of California TT, are hoping to show off their skills. Though they admit it’s been years since the last team time trial in the USA.
For Baldwin, the last time was the Tour de Georgia in 2008. For Vennell and Jacques-Maynes, it was at the 2010 Merco Cycling Classic which they won.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done a team time trial. The last real was when I was 18 at l’Abitibi, we won it with Taylor Phinney. Danny Summerhill, me, Ben King.” laughed 23-year old Jones.
Smooth. Having strong time trialists on a team doesn’t necessarily deliver a strong team time trial, it’s all about keeping a smooth and consistent rhythm.
“You try to keep the whole team together, rolling as smooth as possible and you eliminate guys who are messing up that rotation, that rhythm. That’s the key: to maintain a high rhythm and a consistent rhythm the whole way.” explained Jacques-Maynes.
He continued, “Just because you have a whole bunch of strong guys doesn’t mean that they can be coordinating their efforts. It’s a real fine balance of pulling hard but not pulling so hard that you can’t get on the back or that your teammate who just swung off can’t get on the back. It’s more about moderation of effort, pulling longer instead of harder.”
The race against the clock returns to the Miller Motorsports Park, the site of the previous individual time trials. Each team will complete 3 laps of a 4.5-mile course with its wide turns, for a total of 13.5 miles or 21.75 kms.
“The course is wide open, it really is a perfect team time trial course. Nothing is too narrow which is nice.” Jones said.
The rotation order will be decided on Wednesday morning once the team sees the wind conditions at the track.
“I think it’s early enough in the day that it probably won’t be really windy. With the amount of corners there are, a single pace line is for sure the way to go.” Bissell DS Omer Kem said. The team will leave the start house at 2:18 pm MT.
Kem has a plan for the track with its numerous corners. “I want to be able to use one rider per straight section and using the stronger time trialist on the longer straights and that way when they pull off into the corner, the next guy needs to carry the speed. The big key to a team time trial is to really not make big accelerations, you want to maintain a really high-level of speed but at the same time you want to be really smooth because you need all five guys there to race their bikes the whole time.”
Five is the magic number as the finishing time for the team will be determined by the finish of the fifth rider across the finish line.
“It will be probably Ben and Jeremy carrying the weight, Carter needs to be in there, he had a tough day (on Tuesday) and that’s not really the result he wanted to have, I think he’s going to be pretty motivated to do something. Kyer and Baldwin will do everything they can to be there. That’s our five guys.” Kem added. “The other three guys do everything they can.”
Jones would love to follow Vennell’s wheel. ‘Because jeremy is big.” he laughed. “He’s bigger than me so he’d give a good draft. Also he doesn’t have the acceleration so when he’s pulling it will be nice and smooth behind him, I think that’s key for a good team time trial.”
With three laps around the course, Kem wants the team to start off relatively easy. “The first lap you need to be a little bit conservative. the second lap you need to go one hundred percent and then the third lap you need to go just as fast as the second lap. I think that’s going to be the way to do it. You go out too hot in the first lap and you still have nine miles to go, it’s a long time for eight guys to ride together.”
Play into the overall. Jacques-Maynes thinks the stage as another chance to separate the GC. “A strong climber that has a really good team can get some time over a lesser team or a team that’s just ill-prepared. You’re going to see probably some good separations and maybe some climbers who are a little bit behind the eight ball, having to play some catch up in the hills.” Jacques-Maynes said.
He sees the Bissell team as a darkhorse for the stage. “You’ll see really strong team such as Garmin. I think Omega Pharma-Quick Step might actually have a really good time trial to defend their GC guys. A team like us might surprise putting Chris Baldwin or Carter Jones in good position. And another darkhorse might be the Bontrager Livestrong squad, they’ve been practicing and they could have good results.”
Baldwin concurred somewhat. “I think there will definitely be gaps and I think that there will definitely be guys that will get caught out but I think the good guys in this bike race are on good teams and are going to be the strongest results there.”
But the difficulty of ‘America’s Toughest Race’ comes later in the week.
“I think that it’s a needle in a haystack of the difficulty in this race.” laughed Baldwin, “A thimble of water on a wildfire. I think that’s the least of our worries.”
Though some of the riders have been in Utah for eight days before the start of the race, they chose not do practice the team time trial at the Miller Motorsports Park.
“It just more acclimatization and trying to breathe this thin air.” said Jacques-Maynes who traveled to Utah straight from Grand Rapids, Michigan after US Pro Crit.
Others that live at altitude prepared in other ways. “ I’ve been trying to get ready for 95 to 100 degrees every day. That’s definitely been a weakness, I’ve been trying to get ready for it.” Baldwin commented.
Baldwin’s secret for the heat? “Sit in a sauna.” he replied. “The sauna gives me the edge.”
It must be working, Baldwin and Kyer, who also used the sauna is their preparation, finished in the lead group on the first stage while Jacques-Maynes spent the majority of the day in the breakaway and took the KOM jersey.